Recently George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury spoke out against the bishops of the Church of England as they took a uniformly strong stand against the Welfare Reforms making their way through parliament. It’s not the first time that Carey has decided to criticize his successors, actions which appear to be unique to Lord Carey.
Giles Fraser writing in the New Statesman responds with a bit of history making the point that Carey doesn’t represent much more than his own views, and his criticism does not indicate a wider discontent.
“[The present controversy between the Prime Minister and the bishops is] a bit of a throwback to the 1980s. During that period, while Thatcherism was doing its worst and the Labour Party was lost to internal dispute, the Church of England took up the mantle of unofficial opposition to the government. Bishop David Jenkins lambasted the treatment of miners in Durham. And the Church’s Faith in the City report of 1985 shone a powerful light on urban decay and the growing gap between rich and poor.
Dismissed by Conservative politicians as Marxist propaganda, Faith in the City showed a church rightly concerned with the effect of government cuts. Mrs Thatcher hated it. Her response was to promote Carey to Lambeth in 1991. He was a man after her own heart.
This is why Carey’s attack on his fellow bishops is entirely predictable. His outlook comes straight from the Thatcherite self-help handbook. But in the current Church of England, he represents a very limited constituency. Today the Church looks much as it did in the 1980s. As the government’s austerity programme targets the “undeserving poor”, the clergy are finding their voice.”
Fraser draws the conclusion finally that people who worry that the next Archbishop of Canterbury will be a more right-wing leader appointed in reaction to the present economic views of Abp. Williams are going to be disappointed. Carey is so unique among the bishops of the Church of England that there’s just no one available to reprise his role.
Speaking of Lord Carey, there’s a long article in the Telegraph today that reports on his present outspokenness, and mentions that he has a new book coming out later this week.